Following SEO best practices does not guarantee that you will rank first in search engines for the keywords you want. You need to figure out the SEO strategy implemented by the top websites in your niche. In this way you can reverse the search success.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a competition. To appear higher in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), you need to outperform your competitors. There are around 200 factors that contribute to the success of your SEO endeavors, and while the list can be exhaustive, we have summarized the SEO formula as follows:
THE BUYER’S GUIDE FOR MODERN CONTENT MARKETERS
Welcome to the 2019 edition of the Modern Content Marketer’s Buyer’s Guide. About 10 years ago, marketers realized that content was a crucial part of their pie and have since worked overtime generating content to grab the attention of potential customers.
SEO = Technical SEO + Onpage SEO + Offpage SEO
Despite knowing this formula, the success of your SEO efforts is not guaranteed as it also depends on how well your competitors implement it in their SEO strategy.
In this article, we’ll explore how to reverse engineer SEO math so you can see how well your competitors are using it to their advantage. If you know their SEO tactics and strategies, you are sure to be heading in the right direction.
Step 1: Identify the keywords you want to rank for
Start by reverse engineering the seeker’s intent. That said, start using keyword phrases that you – a potential user – would type in to solve a challenge (that solves your product). The keywords should not only revolve around your offer, but also contain the peripheral / complementary aspects of your offer.
For example, if you are a CRM software company, along with keywords related to your product, identify the issues sellers and business owners are facing in order to create a set of keywords that recognize those issues. Examples of keywords would be how to forecast sales, how to increase email open rates, and so on.
Find keywords that also take into account purchase intent. Not everyone becomes your customer right away, but creating content that targets different buying intentions allows you to develop a relationship with the searcher.
Along with Google’s Keyword Planner, you can also get a glimpse of the keyword phrases used by your prospects by looking at the bottom of the SERPs.
Screenshot of Google Recommended Keywords for Keyword – How to Buy a CRM
Bonus tip: If you are working on a piece of content that revolves around a primary keyword phrase, make a list of semantic and thematic keywords that support the main keyword phrase.
Learn More: How Voice Search Will Revolutionize Your Marketing
Step 2: who are your competitors?
There are two approaches you need to take to identify your competitors.
The first is the traditional approach where you want to outperform brands and organizations with similar offerings in your niche and for the same target audience. This is the most basic exercise any business does before it gets wet. With this approach, you need to identify the keywords your competitors are using to rank in the SERPs.
The second is a keyword-driven approach where your goal is to outperform any other website that competes on search engines for the same keywords. Some of these sites could be review sites, publications, or other types of sites that may not be a direct competitor.
Step 3: Analyze the links that appear on the SERP
Now that you’ve identified the keywords and your competitors, it’s time to reconstruct the two crucial aspects of the SEO formula, namely reverse engineering. On-page and off-page SEO.
Start by analyzing the three key elements – Title Tag, URL, and Meta Description – that appear in SERPs:
Screenshot of the displayed top results that contain keywords in the title tag, in the URL and in the meta description
If you look closely, you will find that the meta description keyword phrase you are looking for is in bold.
After the initial analysis, click on each link and notice how the following elements are organized. (Keep in mind that the results of this analysis may vary as different sites may have different buying intentions.)
- Content length
- Content formatting / structure (text, paragraph, H1, H2, etc.)
- Keyword density
- Images and the corresponding alternative text
- Anchor texts and the corresponding links
- Internal links
Learn more: Mobile SEO Best Practices
Step 4: Analyze Competitors’ Websites
After analyzing individual pages, analyze the entire website according to the following criteria:
- Check the top-level domain (TLD) / domain extension. Search engines may prefer a particular TLD over other TLDs
- Sitemap to understand the structure and hierarchy of the website
- Run the PageSpeed Insights test
- Take the mobile-friendly test
- Separate content to understand whether they categorized their content experiences by subject, format, or both
- Check domain authority
A good knowledge of the website structure and hierarchy will help you understand and identify if you need to make changes to the existing environment in order to achieve similar results.
Step 5: understand your competitors’ off-page strategy
The final piece of the puzzle of the success of a reverse engineering search is to identify your competitors’ off-page activity. Here are a few tactics you can use to start in the right direction:
- Check the number and sources of backlinks. Alternatively, you can use ahrefs, SEMrush, or LinkMiner to find these backlinks
- Take the BuzzSumo test to see the top performing content on social media
Once you know where your competitors are going to get backlinks, you can target those same websites to get backlinks for your website if they are legitimate and relevant. Knowing what content works on social media can also help you create content that works well both organically and on social media.
Learn more: Demystifying Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Build your foundation
Reverse engineering SEO activities of the successful brands in your field will help you create a content plan that supports your SEO strategy to replicate their success. But remember, good SEO is not an overnight phenomenon. Significant results take time and consistent effort.
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